published Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

Pennsylvania dad charged after daughter's first-date death

PITTSBURGH — A 12-year-old Pittsburgh girl who got out of her father's SUV to pose for photos with a boy after her first date was struck and killed by the vehicle, police said Monday, and her father was charged with DUI.

Police said that Richard Benton, 53, refused field sobriety and breath tests after slurring his words and smelling of alcohol at the scene of the crash around 8 p.m. Sunday. He was arraigned Monday and police said he could face additional charges if they determine he was directly responsible for Shamera Harris' death.

Court records don't list an attorney for Benton, whose home phone was continually busy Monday after his court appearance.

Benton told police he thought the vehicle was in park and the girl's mother, Carla Harris, told police Benton was "messing around with the gear shifter" before getting out of the vehicle to take a photo after dropping off the girl's date after a movie, police said in a criminal complaint.

After the car then began rolling backward, Shamera Harris was struck and dragged about 50 feet before the SUV hit a tree and stopped.

"He misjudged it from what we're being told," police Sgt. Tom Huerbin said at the scene, referring to Benton's impression that the vehicle was safely parked before he got out.

Police will inspect the vehicle to determine if it was working properly, said Lt. Daniel Herrmann, who called the incident a "terrible accident."

"If there's reason to believe he's responsible for this girl's death, then there will be (more) charges," Herrmann said. "It's one of those things where you have to go wait and see. You have a lot more investigation to go."

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